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Manila's unilateral move on South China Sea dispute unhelpful

The Philippines has been acting like a crying baby by seeking international arbitration over its territorial spats with China in the South China Sea. It may get fondness, but will not help settle the disputes.

Despite strong objection from Beijing, Manila unilaterally initiated and has been pushing forward with the arbitral proceeding since January 2013.

Some blindfolded have questioned China for not accepting or participating in the arbitration, while some ill-intentioned, who have made one-sided and misleading readings of international rules, accused China of not abiding by international law.

To clear up the confusion, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued on Sunday a position paper, elaborating on the legal basis for China's position that the arbitral tribunal manifestly has no jurisdiction in this case and demonstrating that China's position not to accept or participate in the proceedings stands on solid ground in international law.

China's refusal is legitimate. As has been stated in the paper, the essence of the subject-matter of the arbitration is the territorial sovereignty over several maritime features in the South China Sea, which is beyond the scope of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea under which Manila initiated the arbitration.

Besides, arbitration must be based on the principle of consent. In bilateral disputes, if one party does not accept or participate in the arbitration, the other party shall not institute arbitration against its will.

China's refusal is also sensible. It is best that specific disputes are solved through negotiations and consultations by countries directly concerned. The rationality of the "dual-track approach" proposed by China has been acknowledged by claimants involved in the South China Sea disputes.

As for the Philippine government, it was illegal and very near-sighted to take such a move which turns out to be nothing but a piece of political grandstanding. It could put pressure on China, but would surely take a toll on the otherwise positive developments toward a solution to their disputes.

Beijing and Manila have agreed, through bilateral instruments, to settle their disputes through negotiations to the exclusion of all other means. By unilaterally initiating the arbitration, Manila has breached its obligation under international law.

Meanwhile, by breaking its promises, the Philippines has also dampened the benign momentum in the development of bilateral relations, which were on a right track of negotiations and cooperation and benefited both countries.

The Philippines should act in a more rational and sensible manner as there has been a growing economic interdependence of countries around the South China Sea. Interests of all these countries would be at stake if diplomatic standoffs intensified. It would be Manila's fault if it sticks to its unilateral moves against China which, as a responsible player, has been striving for a peaceful settlement of the issue.

Through negotiations, China has settled its land boundary with almost all of its neighbors and has delimited its maritime boundary in Beibu Bay with Vietnam.

Such facts have proven that the existence of differences is nothing to be afraid of. As long as relevant countries have the goodwill and engage in friendly consultations and negotiations on an equal footing they can enhance mutual trust, expand common understanding and gradually and properly settle disputes.

Thus, it is advisable that the Philippines return as soon as possible to the right track of negotiation to settle the disputes.

In principle, China, like any other country in the world, will not give up an inch of its land. In reality, it is willing to cooperate with others to manage resources and protect free navigation in the South China Sea, which benefits not only individual countries, but also the region as a whole.

[Source: By Xinhua Writer Huang Yinjiazi, Xinhua, Beijing, 07Dec14]

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East China Sea Conflict
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